How safe is anesthesia for dogs with heart conditions?

My 6-year-old Dachshund Weenie was born with a hole in his heart and we have always been advised never to put him under anesthesia unless...

My 6-year-old Dachshund Weenie was born with a
hole in his heart and we have always been advised
never to put him under anesthesia unless
absolutely necessary. Two months ago, he developed
an infection in his carnassial tooth that caused
his face to swell beneath his eye and we were
given antibiotics…the swelling went down and
came back again and we repeated the antibiotics.
We were told he would eventually have to have it
pulled. However, we don’t want to put him under
for fear we would lose him. The vet said that
longterm antibiotics could not be given because
the infection could spread and cause damage to his
heart. My question is – could we continue the
antibiotics and have him monitored closely to make
sure we are not causing him further harm? We
really don’t want to lose our little guy by
risking anesthesia. Thank you!

Delmont/Pittsburgh, PA

I certainly understand why you are worried. Dogs and cats sometimes are born with irregularities in their hearts. For these individuals, anesthesia is riskier than it is in other animals.

However, the risk level differs among pets with heart anomalies. Some can tolerate anesthesia just fine. Others can not.

Fortunately, there is a way to find out whether Weenie is a good candidate for anesthesia. A specialist in veterinary cardiology can evaluate his heart using ultrasound. The procedure is called echocardiography. If performed by a competent clinician, echocardiography will give a good indication of whether anesthesia would be safe for Weenie.

Pittsburgh is a major metropolitan area, and there are probably several veterinary cardiologists in town. Your current vet should be able to recommend one. If the cardiologist gives a thumbs-up, I would recommend that the tooth be pulled.

It may be possible to get the dental work done at the facility where the cardiologist works. That would be the safest option, because he or she could monitor Weenie’s heart during the procedure.

If the tooth is not pulled, Weenie is likely to have ongoing problems. Infected teeth are painful, and the infection can spread to organs throughout the body, including the heart. Continuous antibiotics may temporarily suppress the infection, but I would use that option only as a last resort.

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